Basil, raw cashews, miso, lemon juice, and EVOO are all you need to make the best dairy-free pesto in under 10 minutes.
Having a jar of the Italian herb-based sauce in your fridge means you’re halfway to a brand new meal. This dairy-free basil pesto with cashews is, in my opinion, the best vegan pesto ever. I’ve made many, many versions over the years, and this combo and ratio of ingredients is fool-proof.
How to Make Pesto Without Parmesan Cheese
If you’ve set out to make a delicious cheese-less pesto, cashews and miso are your best friends. Raw cashews have a rich and creamy texture, and a mildly sweet taste. Miso, on the other hand, adds the salty, savory funk you’d typically get from Parmesan. Together, these create a similar cheesy flavor to the classic. (P.S. A lot of vegan pesto recipes use nutritional yeast as a cheese replacement; I personally find its flavor overpowering in this raw sauce.)
What’s In This Dairy-Free Pesto
- Basil: The foundation of classic pesto. Whenever I have other herbs in the fridge, though – cilantro, dill, or parsley – I toss them in as well.
- Cashews: Raw cashews have a sweet, mild flavor, and rich, creamy texture, which makes them ideal for pesto. (They’re also cheaper than traditional pine nuts!) Raw blanched or sliced almonds work too.
- Garlic: A little clove goes a long way here.
- Miso: This Japanese fermented soybean paste isn’t just for miso soup. It adds umami and a “cheesy” flavor to many vegan recipes. Look for miso in the refrigerated section (next to tofu, kimchi, etc.) or in the international foods aisle.
- Oil: Pesto calls for a lot of EVOO, so use the best quality you have since its flavor will definitely come through. I rely on California Olive Ranch as a tasty and affordable option.
- Lemon Juice: Adds brightness and balances out the oil.
How to Make Dairy-Free Pesto
Measure the Basil: Start by measuring out 3 packed cups of basil; this means you should fill and pack down a 1-cup measure 3 times. If this is your first rodeo, you may be surprised by the colossal amount of basil you need to make just 1 cup of sauce!
Start Puréeing: Place the basil in a food processor, and add the cashews and garlic. Pulse them alone first to break them down before adding the oil.
Finish the Pesto: Once the basil and nuts are pulverized, open the processor and add the miso, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Then close it back up and measure out your oil. With the motor running, gradually stream in the oil so everything has a chance to come together evenly. The pesto should be smooth, shiny, and fragrant. Be careful not to over-process it, though, since too much heat created by the movement of the blades can make the pesto bitter.
(Although a food processor is best, you can make pesto in a blender: combine all the ingredients in the blender at once and puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides often. Note: a blender may require a bit more oil.)
How to Store and Use Vegan Pesto
If not using right away, scrape the pesto into a small container, close with an airtight lid, and keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. For longer-term storage, lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto first, then close with the lid; freeze for up to 1 month and thaw in the fridge before using. Besides pasta, you can stir it into cooked rice or farro, drizzle it on roasted vegetables (like carrots, eggplant, cauliflower, etc.), or use it as a grain bowl sauce or sandwich condiment. The possibilities are nearly endless.
If you’re a fan of pesto, check out…
- Spinach Pesto Pasta
- Summer Rice Salad with Tomatoes and Pesto
- Pesto Pasta Salad
- 8 Make-Ahead Grain Bowl Sauces
Let me know if you try this recipe! Give it a rating below and leave a comment, and don’t forget to tag your creation with @thenewbaguette on Instagram.Print
Basil, cashews, miso, lemon juice, and EVOO are all you need to make the best vegan pesto in under 10 minutes.
- 3 packed cups basil leaves (about 1 large bunch)
- 1/3 cup raw cashews
- 1 medium garlic clove, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons white miso
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- In a food processor (see below for blender instrux), combine the basil, cashews, and garlic. Pulse until everything is broken down.
- Then add miso, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. With the motor running, gradually stream in the oil and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
Although a food processor is best, you can make pesto in a blender: combine all the ingredients in the blender at once and puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides often. This method may require a bit more oil.
- Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
- Calories: 107
- Fat: 11 g
- Carbohydrates: 2.1 g
- Protein: 1.2 g
Keywords: vegan, pesto, basil, cashews, italian